Your Baby and Water Safety
By: Safe Splash Swim School New babies mean exciting times. Maybe weary times too, as you strive to make your child’s start in life a safe and happy one. And with bath time splashes and rising mobility, an important question eventually arises – when should my child start developing the skills needed for water safety? What Age to Start If you are wondering if your child is old enough for swim lessons, the answer is likely YES. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that structured swim lessons start at 1 year of age. We now know that toddlers who have had more exposure to water and even basic swim skill instructions learn to swim and become water safe at a faster rate. So, even though most kids can’t necessarily swim independently at that age it is seldom too early to expose them to water safety and swim skills. Importance of Swim Lessons and Water Safety Around one in every five drowning deaths involve children under the age of 14, with children between the ages of 1 and 4 years old having the highest drowning statistics. This is largely due to parents' lack of knowledge of water safety. In most cases, you’ll find that swim lessons for kids can start at around 6 months of age with a parent accompanying their infant. At this level, the lessons are meant to help your baby get acquainted with the water and for you to learn water safety. While these aren’t “proper” swim lessons, they set the groundwork for when your child can be enrolled in the next level where they start to learn different skills. To make sure their first experience is as magical as possible, here are some tips from SafeSplash Swim School on ways to prepare for that first swim school visit. 3 Steps to Swim Lesson Preparation – From Fear to Fun, then to Skill Building It is virtually impossible to teach safety skills if someone is deathly afraid. So, water safety skill building starts with the basics – associating water with fun. Here is what you can do to set the tone for a fun and successful swim lesson with your child: Step 1 - Prepare Yourself - • Ask to visit a swim school class with your child. Some babies adapt more willingly than others to new people, environments and experiences. Visiting a swim lesson or school prior to getting in the water will help to gauge your child’s interest in the lesson. • Make sure you will be swimming in a warm water pool heated to at least 86°F, preferably 90°+. • Prevent unexpected diaper accidents. We recommend a double diaper system consisting of a disposable swim diaper closest to your baby’s skin and a non-disposable diaper over it. The best non-disposable diapers are ones made of neoprene with extra snug cuffs around the waistband and thighs – making sure any accidents stay inside! • Minimize your own stressors. It is not necessary for you to be able to swim to take your child to infant swimming lessons but check with a lifeguard or instructor at the pool if you are unsure about depths as you accompany your infant. Also, put on your swimsuit before leaving home. And don’t forget some milk or snacks for your child as they’ll be hungry after their lesson! Step 2 – Prepare Your Infant/Toddler - Make sure bath time is a fun time of day, as this will help your little one to thrive in water, viewing it as something to be enjoyed and loved. • Encourage lots of splashing by playing with toys. Smile at your baby, sing and talk to them whilst maintaining reassuring eye contact. • Gently pour water over his or her head and face while in the tub or take them in the shower with you to help them get used to being splashed and having water on their face. • Help him or her float on their back for a few moments at a time while carefully supporting their head to keep their face from going under the water. Do not allow this to become a fearful experience. • Talk and sing to him or her while they float so that they hear what your voice sounds like with their ears in the water. Step 3 – Support your child’s swim school visit - Make sure your first visit is a positive, gentle introduction to the multi-sensory world of swimming pools, lessons, and other parents/kids. • Refrain from feeding your infant during the 30 minutes before class to avoid spitting up during the lesson. • Arrive a little before class time prepared and dressed for the pool and changed into a double diaper system • Spend time with them on the side getting them acclimated to the noises, colors, splashing and general hubbub of the pool. • Reassure your baby when they first enter the water: Smile and talk to your baby and reassure them it’s a fun experience. It’s important that you are calm and positive as they’ll take their cues from you. • Alternate your hold on your baby: Throughout the session, alternate between holding your baby very close with reassuring skin-to-skin contact, then at arm’s length so they can move freely and feel more independent. In summary, by starting lessons early, you greatly increase the likelihood that your child will progress from fear to fun and build the skills and confidence needed for water safety and a lifetime of adventure and joy in and around water.